In our country, a festival is incomplete without food! It is an essential part of the festivities, and the number and type of delicacies made on these special occasions defines the festival in many ways.
For example, when we think of Ganesh Chaturthi, instantly the image of the food that comes to our mind is of modaks and neoreos. These are the ‘must’ sweets which are made for Chaturthi.
There are also variations of these sweets. Traditional modaks are steamed and are made of a cover of rice paste, filled with a coconut-jaggery mixture. The other modaks are the fried ones, where the pastry is made of maida or wheat flour and is stuffed with similar stuffings and is deep fried. The other modaks are made of khoya, which we can easily purchase from sweet shops.
On the day of Chaturthi, there is a custom of offering 21 modaks to Lord Ganesha, which are his favourite, along with neoreos — the semi-circle shaped deep fried pastry, has a filling of desiccated coconut, semolina, dry fruits etc.
Along with these sweets, there are some interesting dishes made during Chaturthi and also on the day of Tay or Hartalika Puja — which is worship of goddess Parvati. It is usually held a day before Chaturthi and on this day, a special type of patoli is made using turmeric leaves.
“These are not the regular patoli which is stuffed with coconut and jaggery. We call it moni patoli as it is devoid of any stuffing and the leaves are layered with rice paste and steamed. Even salt is not added to it,” says Anjana Amonkar, a caterer and Goan food expert, based in Porvorim. She adds, “The food cooked for Parvati is sans salt as she craved it when she was pregnant with Lord Ganesha.”
On the day of Chaturthi, there is a custom of making a vegetable using five different leafy greens. Traditionally, in places like Bicholim, there was a custom of making five different vegetables from these greens. All these greens have to be seasonal and local. These leaves are highly nutritional and are rich in antioxidants, zinc and fiber.
The five main leafy vegetables are taikilo (Cassia tora), leaves of alsane (black-eyed beans), red and white amaranth, and leaves of drumstick. “For this vegetable, the leaves of drumstick hold relevance as it is from this time onwards that we, in Goa, start eating these leaves and not before that. This symbolizes the importance given to eating local and seasonal food,” says Amonkar.
There’s no hard and fast rule to use only these leaves. It depends mainly on the vegetables which are grown in your kitchen garden, in one’s backyard. It can also include leaves of elephant foot yam (cultivated variety), pumpkin, mustard, etc. All this delicious food is then eaten on banana leaves that impart its own flavour to the food and are an eco-friendly option, too.
THE MAIN COURSE
Along with these vegetables, some of the other dishes which are made during Chaturthi are gaathi (a curry made from moong beans), vatanyache tonak (a curry made from white peas), bhenyacho ross (a curry made from local long bhindi), khatkhate (a stew that has variety of local vegetables, tubers, etc), a green vegetable usually made of colocasia leaves, a special tonak of cucumber and also ridge gourd, as these vegetables are in season.
All these items are served with steamed rice and varan and also puris or vade. There are also accompaniments like papad, bhajiyas, pickle, sol kadi, fried breadfruit fritters etc. However, any thali is incomplete without sweet dishes, so the festive thali has sweet dishes like Sakhar Bhaat, Kheer, Mangane, etc. Kheer is made using milk, or the traditional way using coconut milk, along with vermicelli, etc.
All these dishes are served on a banana leaf and is first offered to the deities, which is known as naivaidya. Five plates are served to the deities. In some families, a small plate is offered to the mouse—the vahan of Lord Ganesh.
Along with this naivaidya, there is also a custom known as panch khajya that consists of five items which are deep and are of five different shapes. This is a wheat flour pastry, stuffed with chickpea flour and a jaggery-based paste. The stuffing is similar to puran poli stuffing. It usually has the shape of neoreos, modak, star, toffee, etc.
The variety of dishes made for Ganesh Chaturthi is endless. They emphasise seasonal, local ingredients and celebration of the new harvest as well as the biodiversity.
On that note, Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!